Over and over again at the national and state family law conferences to which we are invited to attend and present, there is an ongoing conversation about changes to the practice of law, and in particular, the changes to the practice of family law. Several years ago, that was marked with developing limited scope representation. A common theme these days is the lawyer’s role as problem-solver or peace-maker.
The reason for this push towards problem solving is largely economic. Traditionally, family law attorneys have been stereo-typed as problem creators. Grief-makers, if you will. The more tronble brewed, the more motions and pleadings are needed, the more attorneys fees to be generated. The happier the lawyers.
Those economics were flawed to begin with. For starters, we’re talking about real people, real children, and real problems. While there is great value in the work done by family law practitioners, the attorney’s primary incentive cannot be for financial gain. Then 2008 hit, and fewer and fewer people could even afford for that approach to their case. That trend continues today.
I spent a lot of time in courtrooms in Savmmah and around Southeast Georgia last week. In one court room, I watched, without a doubt, two attorneys exhibiting the most unprofessional conduct I have ever witnessed in a courtroom. They were arguing a motion for a fairly trivial issue in what was clearly a never-ending modification of custody case following what had been clearly a very nasty divorce. The lawyers and their clients took their seats and the attorneys literally began yelling at each other in open court. When they were both astonishingly unsuccessful at getting the other attorney to yield to their point-of-view, they turned their anger on the Judge. Both attorneys threatened to appeal whatever the Judge ruled immediately. I’m sure you know how well that went over. And at the end of the day, both clients got a “show”, their attorney “zealously advocating” for them. I suppose that will make the client’s bill this month easier to swallow.
If your lawyer is prone to histrionics in court, for yelling for the sake of yelling, ask yourself: is this a problem solver or a grief-maker? If your attorney is a grief-mal(er, now may be the time to start hand-maldng your holiday gifts and cards this year. After all, you are soon going to be broke.
If your attorney is not leading the conversation in your case about problem-solving, it’s never too late to find one who is. Fmnily law attorneys must be problem solvers, not griefmal(ers.